Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Arriving Back in Port

Cory and I waiting to be transferred to the supply ship
The captain of the supply ship maneuvers the vessel close to a platform to unload supplies
Our room on the supply ship
Riding in a Tuk-tuk in Bangkok
September 15th
I am somewhere in the Gulf of Thailand.  Today Cory and I transferred to a platform and then onto a supply ship that will, at some point, deliver us to Songkhla. I can hear the bow thruster’s powerful rumbling so I can guess that we are at a platform delivering supplies.

This ship is less than a year old and seems quite nice but like the Miclyn Energy it was built in China and we are told that the steal is not high quality.  This ship is equipped with an enormous anchor handling winch with a steel cable two inches in diameter.  But one of the mates on the bridge told us that the first time they used it the spine broke, and they blame the low quality craftsmanship on the ships country of origin.

The last few days have been an awful spell of bad weather, especially yesterday.  The average wave height was 2 or 2.5 meters with maximum swell and waves combined of 3.5 meters.  We couldn’t get much work done and we spent a lot of time transiting as we could only travel roughly half speed.  Everyone tried their best and we worked for quite a while in marginal conditions with sustained wind speeds close to 30 knots.  But eventually the captain was unable to hold the boat on position and we had to quit.

Over the last two weeks we were able to collect all but two of the vibrocore samples.  Now the crew will continue on for another two weeks performing routine environmental monitoring. About half of the Thai science crew where the same as last year and again they were great to work with.  The crew was always happy and helpful sometimes to the point that I felt like they didn’t even need me there to use the vibrocorer.

September 16th
I woke this morning to the sound of the bow thruster.  A peak outside revealed that we were at PACPP still loaded and unloading supplies. By mid-morning we were headed for Songkhla.  For some reason we are not allowed to arrive at the pier before 6am tomorrow morning so instead of transiting at a normal 8 to 9 knots we are only making 5 to 6 knots thus extending the transit time from 12 hours to 18 hours.

I can’t really complain. I will be paid for my time and have been enjoying reading The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.  The book was a gift from my sister last Christmas and it is nice to finally have time to read. The truth is I do more recreational reading in these few weeks offshore then the rest of the year combined.  The first book I read on this trip, Derevnia's Daughters, was about the history of Afognak Village, Alaska in the late 1800s up through 1964. This 450 page book was quite interesting but not very well written and certainly not a page turner.  I’m glad I read it though and I’m certain I wouldn’t have made it through with the distractions of everyday life.

When we arrive in port tomorrow morning a Tetra Tech employee from the Bangkok office, Thagoon, will be meeting us.  This will be nice as we won’t have to worry about making local travel arrangements or hotel accommodations, although I feel confident I could manage on my own.

September 17th
This morning we arrived at port in Songkhla. Thagoon met us at the boat and had arranged for us to clear customs when they opened at 8am. When you leave the port for the Gulf of Thailand it is considered leaving the country, therefore it was important to document that we had legally returned to Thailand.

Cory and I flew to Bangkok in the afternoon.  We decided to spend a day being tourists in the city before flying back to the states.  From the airport we took the sky train towards the city center where we were told we could catch a cab to the hotel we had booked.  This is where things got tricky.  No cab drivers were willing to take us to the hotel from the train station.  It was only a few kilometers away but when I showed them the address (which I had Thagoon write down in both English and Thai) they shook their head and drove away. We were not sure if they didn’t want to drive that direction in traffic or if they didn’t know where the hotel was.

We came across a Starbucks; it was like a little sanctuary for us north westerners.  Cool and quiet inside, we sat down and tried to come up with a plan.  We decided to walk a few blocks and get on a road that led in the direction of the hotel hoping we would have more luck with the taxis.  When we got to the intersection we stood there holding our map and staring at the street sign.  We probably looked lost.  A tuk tuk driver pulled up and asked us where we were going.  It took some convincing on our part that we really knew where we wanted to go.  Eventually he agreed to take us there for 200 Bhat (~7USD) and we were happy to pay.  First we had to stop and ask his friend for better directions, but soon we were on our way and it couldn’t have been more than 10 minutes before we arrived.  The hotel seems to be a good find; we are close to a lot of the main city attractions and there are clearly a lot of other tourists around.  Tomorrow should be a fun day of sightseeing.

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